“It has been a fantastic year for with record profits for fleets, OEMs and suppliers,” said Rence Oliphant, vice president global sales and marketing communications for Hendrickson International at a recent ACT Research Seminar.
The last few years have been especially good for suppliers, according to Oliphant, because unlike the typical peaks and valleys in the trucking industry, which make it difficult to run a manufacturing plant, “we’ve had six years of steady consistent growth so we are operating at higher efficiency.”
While Oliphant says there are some clouds on the horizon, “if the economy continues its slow, steady growth, I expect we will continue to roll right along.”
Oliphant addressed the pending regulations for 33-foot pup trailers and 91,000 pound GCW trucks. He believes the 33-foot pup trailers make sense because they add 10% more cargo space or room for four more pallets. However he said “the industry is fighting within itself over these issues so Capitol Hill is getting mixed messages and the railroads are loving the in-fighting.”
Trailer costs are up because of technology on them so he believes fleets will be keeping them longer. The addition of aerodynamic devices like side skirts and boat tails add cost and may result in fleets buying fewer trailers. In addition, aerodynamic devices add weight to trailers, so trailer manufacturers and component suppliers need to find ways to take weight out. However, he was quick to add that fleets don’t want to pay for weight-saving technologies.
Looking to the future, Oliphant is optimistic about composites as material for building trailer and also sees dynamic suspensions — ones that sense loads and lift and drop axles as needed — as an upcoming technology.
Fleet owners’ demand for more data will drive the development of sensors to alert the fleet about problems with trailers. For example, there may be a sensor that will tell the fleet that the rubber in the bushing is degrading. This will allow repairs to occur before a component fails.
Oliphant expects industry consolidation to continue. “There will be more consolidation of OEMs and fleets and I see trailer dealers buying other trailer dealers and trailer manufacturers purchasing each other.”